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Clay County Farm Bureau President: Gayward Hendry

Gayward Hendry

With more than 5,000 member families and counting, Clay County Farm Bureau (CCFB) is one of the largest in the state and President Gayward Hendry is proud to announce that meeting its membership goal for next year is already in motion. The county already has 77 new members as of November 30, 2015. “With the additional membership drives we have held and are planning we feel we are on the right track,” Hendry said.

Promoting agriculture education and awareness is one of the top priorities of CCFB. The county donates more than $16,000 annually in support of youth education. The core focus of the county’s annual meeting is youth education. The meeting serves as a venue to recognize young future leaders in the community.

Local 4-H and FFA students are on hand to accept a generous monetary donation for the 4-H Foundation and FFA Chapters. A cake auction also benefits the two programs. Local teachers are awarded mini-grant checks for bringing agriculture into the classroom.

The event is a tradition for local community members, public officials and state legislators. CCFB also participates in the Bonnie Cabbage Program, Ag Literacy Day book reading, Farm City and Food Check-Out Week.

President Hendry’s favorite way of promoting agriculture in his community is the Hendry Cane Grind. Each year, Hendry and his wife Susan host a Cane Grind and invite the community to take part in the old southern tradition of making cane syrup. “It is a time to promote membership and educate members on their benefits,” Hendry said. “There is no better way to retain members than by reminding them of the wonderful benefits that they can utilize as Farm Bureau member.”

“You ask what my favorite recipe is but I’m not much of a cook so, I will tell you my favorite meal– lima beans, corn bread, ham hocks and sweet tea,” Hendry said. “Honestly, what else is there?”

Clay County Facts

Farms: 403

Acreage in Farms: 51,581

$496.4 Million in Revenue Generated by Agriculture and Related Industries

12,353 Jobs Provided

Farm Bureau Working Toward 2016 Legislative Session

With the early start to the 2016 legislative session, we are working diligently in Tallahassee to complete a robust and aggressive legislative agenda aimed again at lowering taxes and reducing regulations on Florida’s family farms. The 2016 legislative session is scheduled to begin on Jan. 12 and end on March 11.

Bills that will likely be on Florida Farm Bureau’s 2016 legislative agenda are quickly moving through the legislative process during early committee meetings, where state lawmakers come to town to meet in preparation of the upcoming legislative session.

A comprehensive, statewide water policy bill is moving closer to final passage after failing to pass the Legislature last year. SB 552, sponsored by Sen. Charlie Dean (R-Inverness), has passed all committee stops in the Senate and is ready to be heard by the full Senate. HB 7005, sponsored by Rep. Matt Caldwell (R-Lehigh Acres), has one hearing left in the House Appropriations Committee before it moves to the House floor. This legislation is a top priority of Florida Farm Bureau, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam and Speaker of the House Steve Crisafulli. We are hopeful this good legislation passes, providing a long-term adequate water supply for agriculture, municipalities, Florida’s 19 million citizens and our natural resources.

Legislation aimed at providing additional regulatory relief for Florida’s agritourism operators has also made significant progress this fall. SB 304, sponsored by 2015 Legislator of the Year Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland), has one committee stop remaining in the Senate. HB 59, sponsored by Rep. Neil Combee (R-Auburndale), also has one committee stop left in the House before reaching the floor for a final vote.

Another bill that passed the Florida House in 2015 before failing to pass the Senate would give a consistency to the Florida Fire Code’s application to nonresidential farm buildings. It has also been heard in committee. HB 431, sponsored by Rep. Jake Raburn (R-Lithia), passed its first committee stop in the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee. It has one committee stop remaining before reaching the House floor. SB 822, sponsored by Sen. Kelli Stargel, has not been heard in committee.

Florida Farm Bureau is also working on several other pieces of legislation, including a transportation bill that will modernize Florida’s transportation laws to comply with the federal MAPP 21 standards passed by Congress in 2012 and an omnibus agriculture legislative bill package that will include several provisions to keep agriculture strong and competitive for our state’s farmers and ranchers.

UF/IFAS is as close as it’s ever likely to get to a building boom

We’ve got $5 million in projects under construction or in planning. That should boost productivity, retention and recruitment of people who spend their days figuring out how to make Florida agriculture more prosperous and sustainable.

In November, we cut the ribbon on a 5,000-square-foot expansion of our Gulf Coast Research and Education Center. The addition will make GCREC big enough to hold 150 people – double the number from a decade ago.

By early in 2016 we expect to finish expansion of our Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee. It creates lab space for the new faculty and their graduate students to get to work on solutions to agricultural challenges.

This fall we had a groundbreaking for renovations on our beef teaching unit in Gainesville. Our vision is to provide housing for students, a center where we can put on workshops and better facilities for the management of animals.

Also on campus, we’re building a food security lab that will serve as the hub for efforts to take a big-picture look at feeding the world, from production to post-harvest to transport to marketing to consumers’ plates.

We’re planning a 4-H camp in the Welaka State Forest to give our 200,000-plus 4-Hers a shot at life-changing experiences and develop them as leaders.

Large or small, there are constant improvements and maintenance at UF/IFAS facilities across the state, ranging from a new gravel road in Jay to renovated research labs in Homestead.

Facilities matter. Modern UF/IFAS facilities mean Florida agriculture is more likely to get all it deserves from its land-grant university. We need to keep pace with Florida farmers’ growing needs. We can always use your help making the case for funding for facilities.

We hope we’ll see you at next year’s celebrations of completed projects. We also hope we’ll see you using the buildings to learn and to let us know how we can help you.

Jack Payne is the University of Florida’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources and leader of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

The Time for Bold Water Policy is Now

Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam 

Water is the biggest long-term challenge facing Florida. And that is exactly why I have implored all Floridians, including the general public, legislators and the media, to take seriously the more than one-billion-gallon-per-day shortfall Florida will face by 2030 if we do nothing.

This legislative session, I am working with the Legislature to develop and implement comprehensive water policy that will help ensure we have a healthy and abundant supply of water. The ideal time to accomplish this goal is not when we are in a reactionary mode to an active hurricane season or a particularly severe drought, but rather to move forward at a time when we can make the best possible decision in a non-reactionary, thoughtful way.

Fortunately, in relatively recent years, Florida has built a strong foundation in law for the protection and management of our precious water resources. From the Water Resources Act of 1972, which established our five water management districts, to the Water Protection and Sustainability Act of 2005, we’ve made measurable improvements to the health and supply of our water.

Agricultural producers have implemented best management practices and invested in new technologies to reduce consumption of precious water resources. We’ve replaced inefficient irrigation systems with more precise methods, like subsurface drip irrigation. We use real time, local data on temperature and rainfall to make more informed decisions about the use of resources. Because of the best management practices and new technologies adopted over the last decade, Florida agriculture is saving 33 million gallons of water per day or 12 billion gallons of water per year. At the same time, the implementation of best management practices in the Everglades Agricultural Area resulted in a 79% phosphorous reduction.

Not just agriculture, but all sectors of water users in Florida are making strides to protect our water resources. Through water conservation, as well as the development of alternative water sources, we have reduced our overall consumption of water. Per capita water consumption in Florida fell from 123 gallons in 1995 to 89 gallons in 2010.

Much more remains to be done, though, if we want to ensure we have a healthy and adequate supply to meet our future needs. Our springs have played second fiddle to South Florida’s complex and expensive plumbing issues for too long. These first magnitude springs are a global treasure and the original tourist destinations. The St. Johns River, Apalachicola Bay and Northern Everglades all face their own unique challenges. This is truly a statewide concern, and the time to act is now.

If we take care of our natural systems, we are taking care of our urban water supply needs. If we restore our springs, we are supporting tourism and forestry and the many jobs that benefit from healthy ecosystems and a high quality of life.

Water is Florida’s “golden goose.” It is vital to every industry in every corner of our state. We need to put the policy in place to do this right, and we need to do it now.

Adam H. Putnam is Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture.

Floridians Approve of Farmers’ Water Decisions

The public’s perception of the water conservation practices of farmers and ranchers are far higher than that of policymakers.

Florida Farm Bureau, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida Dairy Farmers were interested in the public’s perception of agricultural water use. Through a partnership with the UF/IFAS PIE Center, the organizations learned that the public really does see the farmer as the first environmentalist.

According to the July 2015 study conducted by the UF/IFAS PIE Center, “Perception of Agricultural Water Use: Comparing the General Public and Decision Makers,” at least 70 percent of Florida residents strongly agree that farms conserve water, protect the environment and preserve open spaces.

However, only 35 percent of local government officials agreed that farmers conserve water.

The public agreed that farmers are concerned about water when making decisions, and nearly 80 percent thought farmers used sound reasoning when making decisions about water. In comparison, only 54 percent of local officials agreed that farmers felt concerned about water when making decisions.

While 40 percent of local decision makers were aware of best management practices (BMPs), they had lower opinions of how Florida farmers practiced BMPs. Only 19 percent of the public were aware of BMPS, but 93 percent were more likely to buy products made with BMPs.

“It is critical that we help educate our decision makers at the local level of the best management practices our farmers and ranchers are implementing on a daily basis to conserve water,” said FFB Government and Community Affairs Director Charles Shinn. “There has never been a better time to communicate to the public and to decision makers at the county level on what agriculture is doing to protect the environment.”

Programs such as the County Alliance for Responsible Environmental Stewardship, or CARES, are excellent tools to help share the stories of farmers and ranchers who are protecting land and water resources.

For more information on the research and to review recommendations, visit

View final report.

View Infographic summary.

Hope for Florida’s Declining Citrus Industry

Florida Department of Citrus recently reported citrus production in Florida could drop as much as 82 percent by 2026, but UF/IFAS researchers may have the key to prevent this devastating decline.

Florida Department of Citrus wrote,“The Florida OJ situation continues to be affected by the lower production levels resulting from the spread of Huanglongbing (HLB, Citrus Greening).”

Citrus greening was first detected in Florida in 2005.

After years of continued decline, UF/IFAS researchers have developed a new tool to battle the highly destructive greening bacterium—a greening-resistant citrus tree.

Although these trees won’t be ready for commercial use for several years, their resilience brings a fresh hope for the iconic Florida Citrus industry.

Two researchers at UF/IFAS’s Citrus Research and Education Center (CREC) were able to isolate a gene from the Aribidopsis plant, a member of the mustard family, to create the greening-resistant tree.

There is no cure for citrus greening, making resistance to the bacterium a crucial breakthrough.

Greening is carried from tree to tree by the Asian citrus psyllid. When the insect sucks on leaf sap, it leaves behind the greening bacteria, which enters the phloem and spreads throughout the tree. Greening starves the tree of nutrients, damages its roots and causes the fruit to be green and misshapen, forcing its rejection for fresh fruit sales and sometimes for juice. Most infected trees eventually die.

Two studies were conducted over the course of several years to determine resistance and viability of different genetically modified citrus trees. A transgenic line was found to thrive in greening-infected groves and could potentially be resistant to citrus canker and black spot.

Researchers will transfer this gene into additional commercial varieties commonly grown in Florida and they plan to “stack” this gene with another that provides resistance by a completely different mechanism in order to overcome greening in the field.

EPA Updates Agricultural Worker Protection Standards

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced new rules aimed at strengthening the 20-year old Worker Protection Standard designed to protect farmworkers from toxic pesticides. EPA’s updates reflect extensive stakeholder involvement from federal and state partners and the agricultural community. The rule revisions will be effective approximately 14 months after the rule publishes in the Federal Register. For a look at a comparison of the new 2015 provisions vs. the current provisions, click here.

County Spotlight: Farm Bureau President Jeff Pittman


Jackson County Farm Bureau (JCFB) President Jeff Pittman is a 4th generation peanut and cotton farmer and is rooted in his community and Florida Farm Bureau. Jeff, his wife Ginger, and their three children, Wilton, Mary Katherine and Jeffery Jr.,  reside in the small town of Bascom, nestled just five miles south of the Alabama border.

Pittman was elected to the State Board of Directors on April 1,, 2006 and has represented Holmes, Walton and Jackson counties for nearly ten years.

Agriculture promotion through youth education and through the JCFB FFA Leadership Program in particular, is something that Pittman is especially passionate about. This program is available to sophomore and junior FFA high school students from October-May and gives them the opportunity for hands on leadership training.

Another way Pittman promotes agriculture in his community and to his county of 2,192 member families is by sponsoring and supporting local youth livestock shows as well as BMP (Best Management Practices) workshops. These BMP workshops provide helpful tools and resources to young farmers which will allow them to conserve water supply, enhance production and preserve farmland for future generations.

It is a pleasure to have a professional and courteous working relationship with our Agency Manager, Kenneth Stoutamire and the Jackson County staff: Kisha McGinty, Salena Cosson, Willie Roche and Margo Lamb. I believe it is very important to maintain this healthy relationship to create harmony within our county.

When asked what his favorite recipe is, the JCFB President responds, “My favorite recipe is my mom’s coconut pound cake:

coconut pound cake

National Affairs


Speaker Paul Ryan on Guest Workers, Farm Bill

Paul Ryan, a 45 year old Republican from Wisconsin, was elected Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives last week. While we were proud of the candidacy Florida’s Dan Webster (R-FL-10) put forth, Speaker Ryan’s election bodes well for fruit and vegetable growers of Florida, but fans of the traditional Farm Bill should beware.

A vocal proponent of immigration and guest worker reform, Paul Ryan understands the challenges facing growers of the hand-harvested crops which dominate Florida’s agriculture. However, for both political and ideological reasons, he has vowed not to work with the current administration to craft a deal to fix the broken system so we will have to wait until after the 2016 elections for relief. On the other hand, Speaker Ryan is unlikely to take up enforcement-only measures, like e-verify, which would harm Florida’s farmers and ranchers.

A Paul Ryan speakership is not necessarily good news for fans of traditional agriculture programs in the Farm Bill like ARC, PLC, and some crop insurance provisions. Ryan championed reforms to gut row crop supports like direct payments and supported adjusted gross income (AGI) limitations which disproportionately affected high-value growers. If Republicans maintain their control on the House as expected, Speaker Ryan will have a huge amount of influence on the next Farm Bill. Hearings for the next Farm Bill should begin next year so his influence will be marked on the bill from the start.

Annual Meeting Recap


The 2015 Florida Farm Bureau Annual Meeting was held last week in Ponte Vedra Beach. More than 500 members attended the three-day meeting.

The annual meeting included a President’s Award banquet to honor farmers and ranchers and volunteer leaders, a Legislative Luncheon to recognize lawmakers who champion for agriculture and the Commissioner’s Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Awards Breakfast.

The following awards were presented during the annual meeting:

Young Farmer and Rancher Achievement in Agriculture Award, Trevor Bass (Alachua County)

Young Farmer and Rancher Excellence in Agriculture Award, Christian Spinosa (Polk County)

Young Farmer and Rancher Discussion Meet Award, Dean Cheshire (Alachua County)

Youth Speech Contest, Victoria Pinedo (Osceola County)

Pat Cockrell Lifetime Achievement Award, Dan Buchanan (Madison County)

Newsperson of the Year Award, Emerald Greene Parsons (Madison County)

Volunteer Communicator of the Year Award, Kellie Mosley (Clay County)

Certified Crop Advisor of the Year Award, Ryan Atwood (Lake County)

Legislator of the Year Award, Sen. Kelli Stargel and Rep. Katie Edwards

Special Recognition to Agriculture Award, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli

Team Player Award, Katherine Lallo (Hendry/Glades County)

Distinguished Service Award, Anne Dickinson (Polk County)

Farmer of the Year, Vic Story (Polk County)

Ag-Environmental Leadership Award, Bull Hammock Ranch (St. Johns County), Carlton and Carlton Ranch (Hillsborough County) and Dasher Farm (Suwannee County)


View our online photo album of GrowingFFB Annual Meeting